The ghost of J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter and the Ur-Fan

Dion McLeod, Travis Holland

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This paper is a speculative engagement with the Harry Potter fan community, which includes author J.K. Rowling as an active participant. We reconsider Rowling's post-textual interventions into (re)interpretations of her work in light of Roland Barthes' rhetorical questioning of the death of the author and suggest a conceptual framework to consider authors who enact this type of fannish behaviour. By participating in these communities, such authors repudiate Barthes' supposed death. In Rowling's case, the interventions occur primarily on Twitter, and it is the immediacy of social media channels that facilitates their impact. We draw on the concept of the 'ur-text' to develop a description of the 'ur-fan' to describe this fannish practice, suggesting that Rowling is the archetypal ur-fan. Ur-fans straddle two roles that are often artificially demarcated (expert and fan). While fans have immersed themselves in their respective story worlds for decades, Rowling's hyper-active media presences (especially on Twitter) position her in this role and sets the Harry Potter fandom apart from many other fan communities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalMFCO Working Paper Series
Issue numberSpecial issue
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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